site logo

The River Bann

Portna is considered the best ford for Salmon and Trout fishing on this

noble stream. At this place, which is merely an inn, kept by a Mr.

Moore, for the accommodation of anglers, the river, which is a large

one, falls over ledges of rock, large stones, broad fords of gravel,

deep gorges in places, rushing down inclined plains, which spread into

currents five and six feet deep, dimpling as it flows along, where large

out may be seen taking down the natural insects, and making the

surface boil. These places might be swarming, were it not for the

"cruives," with the largest salmon in Britain.

During the summer months you may take a good many salmon here, but on

some days you cannot see a fish, as they are mostly stopped at the

"cuts." These salmon traps are called "cuts," in Ireland, and "cruives,"

in Scotland. I need not explain their formation, as they are too well

known to the fly fishers. Notwithstanding all this, the generous renter

of the fishery at the Leap of Coleraine, gives liberty to all anglers

visiting the Bann, from March to August, and the courtesy and politeness

which he evinces towards gentlemen, causes him to take no notice of

their fishing with the salmon fly till September. I have been informed

by Mr. Moore, the inn-keeper, at Portna, that there is now a "Queen's

Gap" made in the "cuts," on Sundays, to allow some of the salmon to

escape. This is a great boon to the angler.

The town of Kilrea is a mile from Portna, where there is a good inn,

kept by an Englishman, a Mr. Adcock. At the bridge, which is half a mile

from the town, there is a famous throw for a salmon; you let off the

line, while standing on the bridge, to where the fish lie, a little

lower down. There are capital streams for salmon near "Moor Lodge," a

delightful spot, down as far as "Bevanaher" ford. The boatmen take you

through the gorges in racehorse style. The man brings the bow of the

boat to the very edge of the rapid, steadies her by making you sit down

with himself, and in a minute or two she shoots down the gorge in a

very pleasant manner into the broad ford below; when he returns with the

boat, he pulls her up the side of the stream. The Bann boatmen, I must

say, are very civil fellows, and charge moderately for their labour and

boats--half-a-crown a day, pot luck, and a smoke of tobacco--"an ould

fly, and a gut casting line, if it's no use to your honor."

THE FLIES to suit the Bann are as follows:--

No. 1. Body claret pig hair, ribbed with gold tinsel, orange tag, a

topping, and a little wood-duck for tail; a dark claret hackle rolled up

to the shoulder, and a blue jay above it; mallard wings, mixed with

bustard--the dark small spotted bustard feather is best for this river,

the light coloured for Scotland and Wales--golden pheasant tail and

neck, peacock wing, wood-duck feelers of blue and yellow macaw, and a

black head. Hook No. 8 or 9. This is a great favourite.

No. 2. Scarlet body, scarlet hackle, and mallard wing, gold over body,

topping for tail, and one in the centre of the wings, jay at the

shoulder, and a black head. Hook No. 8. Large for the Spring, and B, BB

for June and July.

No. 3. Fiery brown body, brown-red hackle, gold tinsel, mallard wings

with a little wood-duck and golden pheasant neck feather mixed with it,

macaw feelers, and a small topping for tail mixed with wood-duck. Hook

BB or G. Grouse hackle round the shoulder, and a black head.

No. 4. Body yellow pig hair, half way up from the tail, the remainder

wine purple or dark blue, a purple hackle over it, and a claret one at

the shoulder; blue head picked out the colour of the sky; two toppings

in the centre of wings of mallard and brown turkey mixed, and macaw

feeler. Hook No. 9. Silver tinsel over the body.

No. 5. Orange body, broad gold tinsel, dark brown-red hackle over it;

strips of wood-duck and neck feather for tail; strips of spotted Argus

pheasant; a dark full mallard wing with two neck feathers in the centre,

and a black head. Hook No. 9, BB, or 8. Large for high water or deep


No. 6. A puce body, ribbed with silver tinsel and gold twist, topping in

the tail mixed with wood-duck fibres; puce hackle struck full up to the

head, blue jay here, and kingfisher each side of the wings, which are

of a very nice mixture of Argus pheasant small spotted feather, peacock

wings, mallard, teal, guinea hen, kite tail, pheasant tail, blue and

orange macaw, scarlet macaw, green parrot tails, Ibis, and silver

pheasant tail (the hen); feelers of macaw, a topping over all, with the

crest feather of the Hymalean pheasant, and a bronze head. Hook, Nos. 9

and 8. These, with the eleven flies in the Plates, and No. 12, early in

the Spring, with the five Shannon flies, are all "first-rate killers,"

indeed, the fourteen painted flies are all capital ones for this river.

THE TROUT FLIES are generally the same as those in the catalogue of

flies for the season. In the spring they run rather large, but in the

summer months they are used very small. Olive flies of various hues are

very much used, and a fly with a green body and the feather off the root

of the landrail's wing; another with orange body, black-red hackle, and

woodcock wings. Hooks No. 8, in spring, Nos. 10 and 12, in summer. The

various browns are capital in the early season, and the green olive,

sooty olive, hare's ear and olive, brown and olive flies made full in

the wings, and to be longer than the body. There are no hackles used in

the spring, till a little further on in the season, then hackle flies

are used; the wren tails of different sorts are very much prized, and

the light red-brown grouse hackle, and yellow body; a blue body fly,

black hackle, and wings of the starling; a gosling green olive fly, with

mallard wings, mixed with landrail, and a hook No. 8 or 10; a fly with a

yellow body of silk, red hackle dyed yellow, starling wing mixed with

mallard, and a little partridge tail; the golden wren is good; a very

small black gnat is good; and the never-failing "blue blow." The body of

this little fly, as used on the Bann, is mole's fur mixed with golden

olive, picked out at the shoulder, and a black bird's wing, to be fished

with on warm sultry days. These flies are killers, and the trout are

fond of them, which will be found excellent and plentiful at Portna.

On the shores of Lough Neagh, towards the Bridge of Toome, where the

river issues out of the lake, there is good angling in the Drake season

in June. There is a small inn at Toome Bridge, where the angler can

procure a boat. It is but four miles north of "Randalstown," on the

Belfast and Ballymena Railway. I have spent many a day on these waters,

when a young man.

From Shane's Castle, the Earl O'Neil's, to the bridge, and from the town

of Antrim to Shane's Castle, there are large trout taken with the fly;

at the end of May, and throughout June, the whole surface of the lake

along the shore is covered with the natural fly. The Drake, in the

Plate, would be a good one made on a large size hook, to throw amongst

them. Earl O'Neil grants permission to gentlemen to fly-fish in the

demesne of Shane's Castle, by sending a note from the inn at

Randalstown, to the Steward.

There are numerous rivers running into Lough Neagh, from five different

counties, which it borders. The Bann rises in the Mourne Mountains, in

the County of Down, and passing through the Lough, issues out of it at

the Bridge of Toome, forming a stupendous body of fresh water. The Lough

is twenty-three miles long, and twelve in width.

To get at the various small trout rivers running into all these great

lakes in the north of Ireland, I would recommend, to gain information

of the cross-roads, Leigh's Road Book of Ireland and Dublin Railway


The angler will now take his departure from the north and proceed to

Dublin, via Belfast and Draugheda, at this place he comes to the river

Boyne, where he may spend a few pleasant days at "Old Bridge," a place

about three miles up the river at the "weirs." There is good Salmon

fishing at this place when the tide is out, and on the flow of the tide

he will take capital Grilse and Sea-Trout.

For the Boyne, the best flies are claret, brown, olive, green, orange,

and black, with brown mallard wings, and turkey tail feathers. Plain

ones in general are best.